After suffering an injury during his 6-4 6-4 7-5 defeat by American Mackenzie McDonald, defending champion Rafael Nadal bowed out in the second round of the Australian Open earlier today. Nadal appeared to suffer a strain in his left hip area while running for a backhand, deep in the second set at Rod Laver Arena.
Then, after receiving attention from a trainer, he took an off-court medical time-out when trailing 6-4 5-3. He returned with a grim face to play out the match but his movement was clearly affected, particularly on his backhand side, paving the way for McDonald to end the Spaniard’s bid for a third title at Melbourne Park.
“He’s an incredible champion, he’s never going to give up regardless of the situation. So even closing it out against a top guy like that is always tough,” said McDonald.
After Nadal’s time-out, he returned to court to a big ovation and earned another round of applause when he held serve. His gloomy expression however, told the story, as he declined to retrieve a drop-shot in the next game, shaking his head at his worried entourage.
Nadal’s elimination shakes up the men’s draw and puts an exciting twist in the Grand Slam titles race, with nine-time champion Novak Djokovic able to draw level with the Spaniard’s 22 major championships, should he take a 10th crown at Melbourne Park.